Shoulder Loosening Exercise

This Exercise is taught to your horse in steps to help him to learn to be calm and relaxed for his front limb exercises. If he can’t do the first step properly then give him time and don’t rush him to get to the rotation exercise as he is telling you he is not ready yet. When people have rushed this stage it results in the horse being tense every time he picks his feet up in the presence of people resulting in muscle tightness and imbalance

Step 1: Teach your horse to let go of tension through the chest and in-between the forelegs by picking his feet up for the count of 10 seconds and increasing in 3 – 5 second chunks over the course of days to being able to stand with each foreleg held in a relaxed way for a minute each. You will soon learn to feel just how long your horse feels relaxed and comfortable and your timing will improve as if you can time releasing his foot before he becomes unbalanced he will learn to trust you and be much more relaxed as you repeat the exercise. Aim for him to achieve the outcome for your session 3 times in succession to be sure that he has learnt what to do that session. When you return to the exercise after a time break start off where you know the horse understands which is not the final outcome of the previous session it is a step back from that. This may seem obvious but sometimes people expect that their horse knows and he is still only in a process of learning and may forget unless he repeats the steps at least 60 times over a period of time. Once you think he has become good at this then know that when you add another step to the sequence he may temporarily become confused until he understands another sequence.

Step 2: When your horse is comfortable to stand with his leg up for at least 30 seconds he is ready for this step. Pick his leg up and support his foot with the outside hand that would pick his foot out. Place the other hand gently on the inside of his foreleg.
Gently and VERY slowly trace a circle with your horse’s knee about the size of a 10 pence piece. Remember that the slower you go the more you are working the muscles for release. Do these 5 times clockwise then 5 times anti clock wise. Repeat the sequence 3 times increasing to 5 rounds of each sequence of 5 rotations. When he can do this proceed to the next step.

Step 3: Repeat the leg circling exercise at different speeds

Step 4: Make the shape of the circle twice as large as a 10 pence piece

Step 5: Draw a figure of eight with the knee

Step 6: Combine all different shape, sizes and speeds to the routine.

When your horse can easily do step 6 you can use this as part of a 3 times per week check / exercise to ensure that he keeps released before and after his ridden work.